Psari, the culinary touches of Sylvia Donoso

11/Octubre/2012 | 19:01

By Lance Brashear

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Mediterranean food has been in vogue for quite some time and in Quito a number of high-end restaurants offer the traditions of Spain, France, and Italy all in one menu.

The attraction of Mediterranean food is that it is not just one tradition.  It is a tour of a region in which the individual countries are already rich in cuisine; so, when combined they offer insatiable, culinary mixtures.

Now imagine taking a Mediterranean menu and then sprinkling it with a dose of Peru, Asia, and North America.   What you end up with is Psari.

“Psari came about as an experience to offer clients a new proposal.  Psari cuisine is varied, like Mediterranean food,” says chef and co-owner Sylvia Donoso.  She says that after nearly two decades of catering events, “we wanted to do something special, to offer clients a new menu.” 

Donoso describes her cooking as contemporary, and “a gastronomic tour of the Mediterranean,” that acknowledges influences from all over the globe.

Psari has local, Ecuadorian ceviche.  It also has American rib eye steak, “because it is the best rib eye,” according to Donoso.  And two of their star dishes are “cochinillo” (suckling pig), a Spanish delicacy served with pear puree, and “costillar a la parilla” (barbeque pork ribs) with a pistachio risotto.

But Psari (the letter “p” is silent), a Greek word that means fish, communicates that its greatest creations are those from the sea.  Even though you find great meats and other dishes on the menu, it is the seafood that underpins the flavors of Donoso’s kitchen.

Take, for instance, their most popular starter plates.  The “Piqueo de mar” (ocean appetizer) is a selection of grilled octopus, squid, and scallops accompanied by breaded shrimp and fish.  As an alternative consider the octopus tartar and scallops as an appetizer.

The main dishes that reinforce their identity are plates like “mero fusion,” a grilled grouper served with artichokes and a pesto risotto.  Or the “Psari salmon,” served in a to-die-for yogurt sauce with capers and vegetables.  And finally, the “Atun Chutney,” a red tuna seared and served with salted vegetables and mango chutney sauce.

These seafood preparations - and the entire menu for that matter -illustrate a deliberate approach by Donoso to offer the plates that diners know and love, but with a touch that is uniquely her own.

Psari is a family-run restaurant with her husband and son – both named Alexis – running things outside the kitchen.  Her son, Alexis, says Psari represents creativity in all that is classical, and together with Donoso’s culinary love, produce their own final products.

“The general idea…is that we did not want things that were so specific…our plates are such that, if you are hungry you are going to remember them,” says Alexis. “They have the same classical names…but with her own touch.”

The best example is the Psari salmon, which shows how Donoso’s sauces are key to giving her food identity.

“We have basic and elaborate sauces,” says Donoso.  “We utilize slow cooking.  The product is fresh, made on the grill or in the oven, but it is prepared with a sauce.”

The costillar (barbequed ribs), another classic dish, has Donoso’s signature in the babaco sauce that accompanies it.  The Chateaubriand tenderloin has a mushroom sauce, and the “Arroz mar negro” (black sea rice) is made with a sauce of natural squid ink - a Mediterranean staple – but with salted shrimp and a house alioli with chili peppers.

Other touches that Alexis points to include his mother’s “ossobuco,” Italian style veal shanks.  Traditionally served with risotto and vegetables, Donoso instead offers hers with tagliatelli pasta and porcini mushrooms.  Psari’s house steak is a tenderloin served with a fried quail egg on top, appreciated and recognized by all local diners as a gourmet version of the traditional Ecuadorian dish, churrasco.

If you want to try something that is uniquely Donoso’s, request her shrimp-filled “Portobello al gratin.”  It also happens to be one of a half dozen excellent options for vegetarians, who can select from great risottos (such as pistachio), pastas (like the gnocchi), and several salads.

The breadth of Psari’s cuisine also corresponds to the variety of wine.  Donoso’s family has a nose and a palate for the finest wines; they offer more than 50 labels and will recommend pairings with all of their dishes. 

Finally, Donoso’s signature touches are not limited to the dinner menu.  Just as important as your meal is what comes before and after.  To start, relax with a red rum house martini – the Psaritini – made with a base of yellow chili pepper. 

And following dinner select one of eight classical desserts, all with personal touches, such as the cardamom crème brulee – cardamom cream with babaco confit  and almond crumble.

Psari is located at the corner of Suiza and Republica del Salvador.  Starters average $9, main dishes $15, and desserts $8.  For reservations call 246-5652 or 225-5153.  To review their menu go to



Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.